Game Time: 7:00 p.m. TV: CSNNW
We distract you from the overflowing Brandon Roy-Andre Miller drama with an actual game, one likely to be a soothing win as well. The Minnesota Timberwolves are coming to town, not-so-proud bearers of a 6-20 record, 1-14 on the road. Their win list reads: Milwaukee (back when they were still bad), Sacramento, New York, Clippers, Cleveland, and Detroit. Those teams are a combined 51-99, not exactly murderer's row. For the Blazers to join that group, falling at home no less, would be yet another Lowest Point of the Season. (For the sake of convenience we'll start abbreviating that LPS from now on, seeing as it's being employed frequently.)
Why are the Timberwolves losing? The Grizzlies gape at how many points they give up. They're poor defensively, rotten at perimeter defense, and they foul everyone. Twice. They shoot poorly unless they're beyond the arc and they don't make enough threes to close their defensive gap. They don't generate easy buckets either. But they sure allow them. Only Washington and Golden State are worse defending the break. They turn the ball over regularly and have the worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the league and it's not even close. The only thing they do really well besides shooting the three is rebounding. They're upper-third in defensive rebounding and second only to Portland on the offensive boards. But offensive rebounding alone does not a victor make...a tale the Blazers know too well.
Their twin forwards are the bright spot for the Timberwolves. Kevin Love has blossomed offensively, shooting inside, outside (40.2% three point percentage, higher than any Blazer), and from the line (6.1 foul shots per game, again higher than any Blazer, this time by a long shot). He scores 20 per game. Oh, he's also averaging 15.6 rebounds. Michael Beasley, a reclamation project out of Miami, is averaging 21 per game himself. Luke Ridnour (10 ppg, 5 apg) , Darko Milicic (10 ppg, 6 rpg), and Wesley Johnson (good luck keeping people straight tonight, Mike Rice) round out the starting five. After that we're talking super-bust Corey Brewer, sort-of-bust Sebastian Telfair, and a whole bunch of guys nobody else would play much. Once super-guard Jonny Flynn (sounds like a superhero's secret identity from a 50's comic book...likely a paper boy) has just come back from hip surgery and is playing limited minutes. As you can see there are a whole lot of defensive holes (GAPING holes) in that lineup and not near enough scoring. When Minnesota racks up big numbers it's because the other team either can't, or just plain forgot to, defend. Meanwhile Minnesota's opponents rack up big numbers whenever the ball is orange.
To win tonight the Blazers need to do a couple things: rebound, run, and watch two players. Minnesota can kill you on the offensive glass...often their only simple scores of the game. Keeping them away from putbacks will cripple them. They're not interested in getting back at all, partly because they do go after the glass and partly because they're populated with players not interested in getting back at all. I expect the Blazers to push hard from the opening moments of this game, coming out with the same attack we saw against Dallas. If they're slow something is wrong, as in "checking out of this one" wrong. Finally if you can keep a lid on Beasley and Love, or at least make them miss shots, the game is at your disposal. It would be typical for Flynn to bust out with his first huge game against Portland. It would be typical to watch Sebastian Telfair or Luke Ridnour even Wesley Johnson get freaky-hot. But even if all of that happens together the 'Wolves won't be able to get past the Blazers if Portland shows any offensive interest at all.
Portland's starters should more than hold their own in this game. Portland's reserves should dominate. Portland should be able to answer anything the Timberwolves throw at them. But "shoulds" haven't always become "wills" for the Blazers this season. Nevertheless, this still better be a win.
Check out the always-lively (and not always pro-Portland) Canis Hoopus.
Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.
P.S. I'll not be able to recap this game but you'll be in Ben's capable hands with the Media Row Report as usual.